Supreme Court Holds in Favour of Narendra Modi in Election Petition Filed by Ex-BSF Jawan

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This Appeal to the Supreme Court was filed to decide whether the Appellant had the locus standi to file an election petition before the Court and whether there was sufficient interest to present this petition. The Supreme Court heard the arguments in the present case of Tej Bahadur v Shri Narendra Modi.

Facts of the Case

This appeal was filed against the order passed by the Allahabad High Court dismissing the election petition, questioning the election of respondent Shri Narendra Modi to the 17th Lok Sabha from 77th Parliamentary constituency (Varanasi), held in April-May 2019. 

The Appellant requested to declare the election of the Respondent as void on the ground that the Appellant’s nomination had been wrongly rejected and that the nomination of the Respondent was wrongly accepted for want of disclosure of certain facts. 

The Respondent applied to dismiss the petition on the following grounds. Firstly, the petition did not disclose any cause of action and Secondly, the Appellant had no locus standi to challenge the election of the respondent since the Petitioner was neither an elector nor was, he a candidate. 

The candidature of the Appellant was challenged on account of him being a dismissed government official, who, to contest the election, had to submit a certificate along with the nomination paper that his dismissal was not the result of disloyalty and corruption. However, he failed to produce the certificate along with the nomination paper within the time provided by the Returning Officer, at the time of scrutiny of nomination forms. 

Arguments

The Appellant contended that as per the proviso to the Section 36(5) of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 (hereinafter referred to as ‘The Act’), the candidate concerned must be given time till the next day to rectify the objection raised by the Returning Officer on the nomination paper. However, such time was not permitted and the rejection of nomination was contrary to law.

The Respondent contended that the phrase mentioned in the proviso is “maybe allowed time”, implying that, the time provided was the discretion of the Returning Officer, and no right could be claimed by the Appellant. There could be no occasion to allow time to a person, who had not demanded the same. Thus, the contentions of the Appellant were to be rejected.

Observation by the Court

Under Section 81 of the Act, an Election Petition may be presented either by an elector, or any candidate, at any such election. An Elector has been specified as a person who was entitled to vote at the election to which the Election Petition was related. The Appellant was not an elector at Varanasi Parliamentary seat because he was admittedly registered as an elector of Bhiwani, Mahendragarh Parliamentary Constituency, Haryana. 

The Appellant was neither a candidate nor could claim to be a duly nominated candidate. The reason being the statutory requirement under Sections 9(2) and 33(3) of the Act, i.e., to submit a Certificate along with nomination paper that the dismissal was not on grounds of disloyalty and corruption, was not fulfilled. 

Section 33(3) of the Act, itself provides for the consequences of the absence of such Certificate and that is such person “shall not be deemed to be duly nominated as a candidate”. 

The word ‘deemed’ in the provision did not create any legal fiction. Instead, it clarified any doubt that may arise as to the legal character of the person who had not and conclusively stated that such a person shall not be deemed to be duly nominated candidate. 

The Court, further, observed that mandate of law should be given full effect and no person should be allowed to claim that he was duly nominated, despite non-compliance with the requirements of law. This observation was made in the case of Charan Lal Sahu vs. Giani Zail Singh &Anr. (1984), which suitably governed the present case. 

The Court did not find any merit in the appeal and did not see it necessary to issue a notice to the Respondent. The appeal did not constitute a debatable question of fact or law, and admitting the appeal would be an exercise in futility for the Court to do so. In the case of Bolin Chetia v. Jogadish Bhuyan & Ors. (2005), the Court observed that the appellate courts including High Courts had the power to summarily dismiss the appeal on account of being satisfied that the appeal was worthless, having no arguable question of law and fact. 

Decision of the Court

The Court decided that the Appellant did not have sufficient cause of action to provide him with the right to sue. It was established that where a person had no interest at all or no sufficient interest to back any legal claim, he did not possess the locus standi to sue. In the case of T. Arivandandam v. T.V. Satyapal (1977), it was held that “reading of the plaint it is manifestly vexatious, and meritless, in the sense of not disclosing a clear right to sue, it should be nipped in the bud at the first hearing”. 

Section 83 of the Act provided that only an elector or candidate could maintain an Election Petition. Impliedly, it barred any other person from filing an Election Petition. The Election petition could also be barred by Section 81 along with Section 86(1) of the Act. Thus, the Election Petition was nipped in the bud and thereby dismissed.

Click here to read the judgment in Tej Bahadur v Shri Narendra Modi.


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